I’ll say one thing for tagged brucenat hate, it always makes me think about my darlings that much more deeply.
Right now in the tag there’s a rant about how Natasha says she adores Bruce for being a pacifist but she isn’t there to see him threaten Wanda, so that must mean she doesn’t really know him and he’s a terrible person how dare he.
Uh-huh. Let’s dissect.
Bruce: You got a lousy taste in men, kid.
Natasha: He’s not so bad. Well, he has a temper. Deep down he’s all fluff. Fact is, he’s not like anybody I’ve ever known. All my friends are fighters. And here comes this guy who spends his life avoiding the fight because he knows he’ll win.
This snippet of conversation showcases many things, including Bruce’s trademark self-deprecation, but nowhere does it say that Natasha thinks Bruce is a pure vision of heavenly light. The very first thing she acknowledges is his inner demon — that deep-seated rage that has been eating away at him nearly his whole life and, for almost a decade, has manifested itself as a literal monster.
But underneath that trauma, Natasha sees “fluff” — someone truly gentle who feels gut-wrenching remorse for the part of himself that is monstrous.
Not to pile on the Shrek/Fiona jokes, but there’s that nice little onion analogy here. Roughly: • Bruce’s crispy outer layer is his PhD in snark, • underneath, the adorakable science nerd, • which belies the mad scientist who’ll break all the rules, • fueled by jealousy and insecurity, • that derives from his “dark passenger” (shoutout to captainjanek) of trauma and rage, • that protects, the very scared, very young child within who was abused by his father, who watched his mother murdered, • all encasing the gentle soul Bruce Banner might have been had he grown up in peace.
And what does Bruce Banner want to do with all that history of violence and self-hatred and failed ambition?
What he doesn’t want to do is exactly what he feels like doing always — smash — and that’s what Natasha is drawn to.
Bruce Banner wants to be good. He wants to be a wanderer, someone who helps where he can and leaves when he can’t. He’ll put himself in exile, he’ll avoid the fight because he can’t lose, except to himself.
In Bruce, Natasha sees someone who is constantly fighting against his monster to let himself be that huge dork he is inside — a struggle Natasha “‘beep beep’ emojis/Children’s War participant” Romanoff knows a little something about.
Now. The second piece of the argument says that all of that falls apart when Bruce threatens Wanda.
Wanda: I know you’re angry.
Bruce: Oh, we’re way past that. I could choke the life out of you and never change a shade.
This is a disturbing statement. It’s meant to be disturbing — Bruce is disturbed. There’s a capacity for violence inside of him that, if he embraced, would be truly monstrous.
That’s another thing Natasha and Bruce have in common. Underneath their warmth, her passion and his rage, is something cold-blooded. Natasha can be who you want her to be. Bruce can walk away from the people he loves.
What’s more, circumstances have rendered inside of them the ability to turn off their remorse and be the monster.
But that’s not what they want for themselves.
Bruce says he could choke the life out of Wanda. Bruce grabs her in a chokehold and says, ‘Try me.’ He warns her what he’s capable of, even though she already knows. She’s been in his head.
And that’s just it. The reason Bruce Banner admits in front of Tony and Steve just how at one with his monster he has the capacity of being.
Let’s all keep in mind that, yes, Wanda is girl half his age, but she is not defenseless and she is not an innocent. I think Wanda deserves redemption just as much as anyone else in the MCU, but let’s not forget that she — someone whose parents died as civilian casualties to a weapon of war — unleashed the Hulk on a city full of people with the explicit aim for him to cause as much collateral death and destruction of civilians as possible. Yes, she was abused, but she chose to be an abuser.
And think about what Johannesburg means for Bruce. He had a home, he had a Team, he was open for “running with it.” The lullaby, more than anything, demonstrates that he felt safe for the first time in god knows how long. And Wanda Maximoff stripped that from him in the most personally violating way possible.
Like I said, Wanda deserves redemption as much as anybody, but don’t patronize her. She can dish it out, she can take it.
So, imagine Natasha was there to hear that speech. Do you really think she’d be horrified by Bruce? No. She’d be horrified for him. Because, in one more way, the world has dropped another dark layer on top of his humanity.